Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Other Side of Slavery

The concept of a faithful slave goes against today’s authorized slave narratives. Before the social upheavals of the 1960s, it was still permissible to depict different reactions of slaves towards their masters; all slaves didn’t have to be portrayed as resentful. Admittedly, most slaves wanted freedom and many slaves were mistreated and consequently bitter towards their masters. Indeed there were slave revolts. But there were numerous slave-holders who could be described as benevolent and many of their slaves responded by remaining essentially faithful to their masters. So, even though it conflicts with the stereotypical portrayal of harsh treatment of slaves by masters, there were exceptions.

During her tour of America in the 1800s, the self-proclaimed authority on social conditions, English noblewoman Harriet Martineau encountered lenient slave-holders. In her 1837 two-volume study, Society in America, she describes a South Carolina slave-holder who refused to abandon his slaves during the cholera epidemic, even though most of his neighbors fled the state.


  1. It is hard to get people to think, when the subject of slavery is discussed. The truth is slaves were VERY valuable property. The idea that they were wholly mistreated goes against all logic. The cost of a slave was a huge investment. Just like today, you can find owners of most anything mistreating them. Those are the exception not the rule. Also, the mindset of people in the 1860s was vastly different. Today we are a throwaway society but back then, everything was maintained and taken care of. I am not saying the life of a slave was enviable but the vast majority were treated well enough. Slaves were tools and most craftsmen take care of their tools. Some better than other and those that don’t lose their livelihood and investment.


  2. If you look at the issue purely from a logical viewpoint, without any emotion or regard to political correctness it makes perfect sense that most slave owners treated their slaves "well" (in relative terms). Think about it this way. A slave and a mule together were the equivalent of a tractor for the farmers of the day. I know a lot of farmers and have for all of my 65 years. They have a lot of money tied up in their tractors and they want them to last. Now there are some bad farmers who abuse their tractors and leave them out in the weather but for the most part the tractors are kept inside barns or under sheds when not in use. They are cleaned up at the end of the season and a lot are even waxed, polished and detailed. That is over and above the mechanical maintenance they get. Why wouldn't an antebellum plantation owner treat his slaves (his "tractors") just as well? Most had to go in debt to buy them!

    As a child on the farm we gave our tractors names. I grew up driving Alice Mae (a small Allis Chalmers). She was lovingly named that. Now if farmers name their inanimate tractors out of affection why wouldn't they have even more affection for the living and breathing slaves they owned?

    Somewhere, I have some copies of old letters written by my ancestors during the "recent unpleasantness". In one of the letters a female was writing her cousin who
    lived some considerable distance (back then probably 20 miles or so). She poked fun at herself and her family members by saying "you should have seen us trying to cook after the 'darkies' ran off" She was talking about when they ran away to a union occupied area after Lincoln "freed" them. She didn't say we hunted them down like dogs and beat them or we found them and killed them. Rather she laughed at herself because she didn't know how to cook. I think that was the way of the real south.

    I grew up in an area known as a hot bed of the KKK. I can tell you from personal knowledge that the only people that "hated" blacks were poor, uneducated, white trash that feared that blacks with new rights would somehow catch up with them and push them down into an even lower class than they were. Educated and wealthy folks did not hate, dislike or harm black folks then or now. True they were not treated as equals but they were not beat and dragged and shot at as the writers of history books would have you believe.


    1. Good post and I fully agree. My family has always been close to our servants.

  3. Using this same logic as slaves being valuable tools doesn't this debunk the nazi holocaust myths as well? I mean those jews were interred into labor camps making uniforms and munitions for the germans...

  4. The NAZI's didn't buy the jews, they stole them and their intent was to kill them off.
    Working them was just a bonus from their view point. If you think that is the same
    as with the slaves.... well I'll stop short of saying what that makes me think of you.